A fundamental challenge in biology is to understand the reproducibility of developmental programs between individuals of the same metazoan species. This developmental precision reflects the meticulous integration of temporal control mechanisms with those that specify other aspects of pattern formation, such as spatial and sexual information. The cues that guide these developmental events are largely intrinsic to the organism but can also include extrinsic inputs, such as nutrition or temperature. This review discusses the well-characterized developmental timing mechanism that patterns the C. elegans epidermis. Components of this pathway are conserved, and their links to developmental time control in other species are considered, including the temporal patterning of the fly nervous system. Particular attention is given to the roles of miRNAs in developmental timing and to the emerging mechanisms that link developmental programs to nutritional cues.